The National Assessment of Adult Literacy came out last Thursday, and it suggests that "Eleven million U.S. adults — about one in 20 — have such poor English skills that they can't read a newspaper, understand the directions on a bottle of pills or, in many cases, carry on a basic conversation". And all 11 million of them have been calling up the Phone Center this week: they listen to instructions as well as they read newspapers, they demonstrate their advanced conversation skills with vowel movements running for twenty minutes or more, and they can't figure out how many bullets go into a hearty game of Russian Roulette, much less how many of those pills they need to pop for a good honest overdose. Hour upon hour upon hour of giving customers their options, and then having them shriek back "What do I do? What do I do?", as well as listening to the aftermath of "You need to enter your account number, followed by the 'pound' sign" magically translated as "Hide the phone under the bed and set fire to the house because the friendly human on the other end of the line told me to". My biggest argument with the report is that it claims that many of those listed as illiterate may have high verbal and written skills with other languages: you mean that Australopithecine is now a written language as well as a spoken one?